COVID and engineering: smoothing the way for young people entering the industry

The UK is crying out for new engineers. Smoothing the way for young people to enter the sector has long been a concern of business leaders and engineering recruitment agencies alike.

Yet the gap between the number of engineer jobs available and the number of qualified engineers being trained seems to be continuing to grow.

After the COVID-19 pandemic and the severe impact it has had on the learning experiences of current school-goers, this gap could widen yet further.

So, what can be done to boost STEM learning? Let’s consider some of the things that might make it easier for young people to get into an engineering-related profession.

The role of schools

Although teachers are largely limited by what the national curriculum tells them they have to teach, there are growing calls for schools and education boards to update the subjects that are required up to GCSE level and beyond.

For example, making digital and computer-based subjects like programming compulsory could help young people interested in moving into software engineer jobs and the like when they leave school.

An increased focus on STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) in general is also a move that could see significant gaps in the job market filled. Not to mention capturing the many, many students with an aptitude for these kinds of tasks who slip through the net of the education system every year.

Inserting engineering and technology into the imaginations of students while they are still at a young age is often cited as being key to sparking a life-long interest in all kinds of engineering jobs and related professions.

The role of work experience

In the UK, it’s common for most young students to only have one week of work experience in their entire school life.

This one week is often limited by the job opportunities in the local region and will rarely give the student anything like a real workplace experience.

A more comprehensive scheme of work experience – with even greater cooperation from businesses and possibly even engineering recruitment companies helping to source the talent of tomorrow – might be just what the doctor ordered.

The role of apprenticeships

Helping the development of young careers is something that apprenticeship programs are ideally placed to accomplish.

Many engineering jobs would be ideal for students with more than just a purely academic skill-set. Often, skills like a natural problem-solving ability are much more valuable in many workplaces.

This is where apprenticeships should have their time to shine. However, even more needs to be done to promote the perception of apprenticeships as not only a worthy and respectable path into the world of work but also a career that can be well-paid as well as rewarding.

More also needs to be done to promote diversity in apprenticeships. Many apprenticeship providers recognise this and are taking steps to balance their intakes. But the effects are yet to be felt in many areas.

Building the talent pipeline

Interested parties inside and outside of the industry have been talking about the STEM skills gap for decades. Yet it’s estimated that engineering recruitment will be needed to fill almost 2 million jobs by the end of 2025.

There is the additional problem that schools that have suffered from many cuts over the past ten years now also have to face the fallout of COVID-19’s impact on students. That’s a poor position to also be trying to tackle a STEM skills gap from.

This might mean that the burden to find the right young people to fill the engineering jobs of tomorrow may fall onto the shoulders of commercial businesses.

As many employers recognise that they are the ones who benefit the most from having a skilled potential workforce available, some are already leading the way to build a system that can train the talent of tomorrow.

Are you looking for the right young person to fill a role? Or are you new to the sector, looking for your first position?

Ernest Gordon is a specialist engineering recruitment agency. We match jobs and talented people across the UK every day.

Get in touch and talk to us about the opportunity you’re looking for. Let’s see what we can do to find it for you.